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WaydeR
54
Sep 30, 2018
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I thought I'd add my 2-cents. My Massdrop avatar photo since I joined happens to be me in my Koss esp-950s.
They were long my favourite headphones, but have been replaced in that top spot by Audeze LCD-3, but they're still a close 2nd.
I love the electrostatic sound, for midrange and high-end it's beautifully detailed, accurate and responsive. These won't be bass monsters by any means. Switching back and forth between the LCD-3 and the 950s when listening to anything with a lot of bass will leave them sounding a bit thin. But bass just isn't where they shine. I tend to use them for rock music, classical, jazz but not techno, EDM/hip-hop.
There's a sweet-spot around 1000Hz and up where there is a slight warmth that really makes acoustic music and female vocals, very warm and non-fatiguing as other headphones might be in the upper end.
I've had my 950s for over ten years and my time hasn't been without technical issues. I had them for years when the notorious "buzz issue" started up. The right side would get this faint intermittent buzzing sound that would be drowned out by music but still annoying. I sent them in to Koss and must praise the warranty here.
I started with a phone call for instructions and talked to a really nice lady at the Koss headquarters. The whole process of shipping from my home in Ontario, Canada to their headquarters in Milwaukee and back again repaired took about two weeks. To my surprise they not only fixed the buzz but they slapped on brand new earpads and even replaced the cables with new ones. The fact that this service exists, no questions asked, no proof of purchase, no wacky verification number requirement - for life, cannot be understated. Koss deserves much praise for their excellent support policy.
I still use them semi-regularly. They are my go-to for jazz, acoustic music. I turn to my Fostex/Massdrop TH-X00 purpleheart for anything that benefits from a more bass-forward presentation (such as electronica), so I feel like I've got the best of both worlds between the two headphones.
It's a shame the battery pack won't be included with this drop. I love the battery pack, but I admit I hardly use it anymore. Attaching a battery pack to the "energizer" is ridiculous fun just because it's so impractical.
The overall build quality and feel by today's standards might seem a bit "cheap". The earcups are plastic, but seem to be more solid than they feel because I've never broken them or had any issues with cracks. They're extremely light on your head, they almost feel like "nothing"... especially compared to my LCD-3s which are pretty heavy. The build quality and design are definitely out of the past, but know what you're getting into. They're vintage headphones, but good sound is eternal. And that lifetime warranty will keep them eternal - so it's easy to overlook the plasticiness of the shells around the earcups. I guess it's worth noting you can get aftermarket earpads, I ordered them online and they're a bit thicker than Koss's stock earpads . There might be a slight bump in the mid-bass due to the earpads and their placement being slightly further from my head, but honestly I didn't notice much difference in sound quality.
I hope you enjoy the drop, good luck.
Sep 30, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
510
Sep 30, 2018
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Shout out to for KossTEX combo!
I use my ESP 950 for muh lush mids, and my TH900/TRx00 Eb for those bassy moments in life. Love it.
Sep 30, 2018
WaydeR
54
Sep 30, 2018
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Yep, it's nice to have a balanced collection of headphones. A headphone that is particularly good at one thing always come at the cost to something else. There is no "perfect" headphone or speaker at any price.
I totally agree, mid-range on these is particularly sweet.
Speaking of balance... I really hate the separated volume control knob. I'm not sure what practical purpose it serves. I use my headphones while reading in bed and keep the energizer on a shelf right next to me in such a way that I have to reach over and turn volume up/down without looking... so getting a good balance can be a bit frustrating. Fortunately the knobs have notches at regular intervals, when the notches are aligned the balance is aligned so it's not a huge deal. It's minor but still a quibble.
Sep 30, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
510
Sep 30, 2018
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Totally agree on the knobs being too loose. I preamp mine via my big ol stack oh schiit which alleviates the bulk of the annoyance. It still serves as an impromptu hearing test that my old ears are still 'balanced' when the dial accidentally gets nudged off slightly though lol
Regarding the design choice to include. My understanding is that for differential E-stats like this (and most), channel imbalance is relatively more likely over time. This serves as a user adjustable compensation, (although I am sure that Koss would prob warranty too). This is why similar features are typically present on Stax and similar energizers as well.
The other reality is that if the product is intended for lifetime usage, it's good that hearing damage over time is considered. This allows the end user to adjust for hearing loss in one ear without the need for external EQ.
Sep 30, 2018
Vishmaw
81
Oct 1, 2018
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Have you tried EQing the bass up in the 950? I am curious how it handles boosts to the 20-30hz area especially. Based on distortion measurements it should be able to do a 5db or so boost without distorting much or at all, would be interesting to hear how it fairs.
Oct 1, 2018
WaydeR
54
Oct 2, 2018
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Hey, Vishmaw.
I don't want to go too far with the comparison to planar magnetic, but as a fan of PM headphones there are some similarities to electrostat, in the flat response across the audio spectrum. So, you'll miss the mid-bass bump or the sparkle in the middle-highs you might get from dynamic drivers and this make headphones made with either PM or electrostat seem dark or distant to some. The mid-bass bump is infinitely popular in today's mainstream headphone market, which makes sense given the amount of electronica/hip-hop on the charts these days.
So. long story short the bass can certainly be EQ'd. I have a collection of Yeraycito's Master Series, I assume Yeraycito is (I assume a guy) who that makes master recordings, eq'd to his own specifications off "fist run" vinyl to high-res digital FLAC files. They sound wonderful but what I notice is that he eq's a bump in the bass, which makes his master series really good for PM or electrostats, as you get a rendition of that punch that might be missing. Bass-forward headphones don't tend to sound as good with his master recordings.
I did a freq sweep 20Hz to 20kHz, of a flat tone (not the most musical way to do it, I know) it definitely has no problem reproducing the tone way down to the bottom. I'm not certain of the science of it but there is a natural rolloff as go down below 30Hz, it's just a natural thing for either our hearing does or all headphones, and the Koss 950s are no exception. In fact the sweep test program I used gives recommendations to turn up the volume between 20-30Hz and then turn it down as you go up above 100Hz because it will kill your ears, especially as you head into the mid-range and beyond.
So, I will say if you're thinking of this drop, it really comes down to the music you like. I think the 950s are a great rendition of the electrostat sound signature. It's definitely no Stax SR-900, but who knows, maybe a Stax energizer would improve the sound of the Koss ESP-950s, it almost has to, because that energizer seems pretty threadbare. But it does the job.
The sound signature is about as flat as I've heard, but it really comes alive listening to acoustic music, or simple, 3-piece bands where the detail of instrumental harmonies are important.
One of my favourite tests for the kind of mid-range accuracy and detail and sweetness in that range, perhaps described as "warmth" is a song called "War of the Mind" by Lauryn Hill off her MTV Unplugged album. The song goes through a range of intimate slowness where Ms. Hill is practically whispering in your ear, then she picks up the pace and raps aggressively, before returning to singing sweetly, her guitar mimics her voice in intensity. There's a point in that song where her voice cracks, just listening to the song on the radio you might not catch it, it just sounds like she starts singing a bit quieter for the rest of the tune. But through a good set of headphones that can illuminate details in the upper-midrange, about where she sings, you really hear what sounds like she might have actually hurt her vocal chords. But like a good trooper she finishes the song and immediately takes a drink of water.
Sorry for the long rant here... I have no problem singing the praises of these headphones. They were my first real "audiophile" grade headphone, so I am definitely biased. Part of what I like about them is that they are archaic by today's standards, they're a piece of historic hardware, designed in the 90s as an improvement to a design from decades before the ESP-950s came out. But they still sound great by today's standards, even if the build quality is a bit vintage.
Wayde
Oct 2, 2018
Vishmaw
81
Oct 2, 2018
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Thanks for the detailed reply! Most headphones are quite rolled off under 30hz indeed, most of them need some EQ to get a good response there. Good to hear they reproduce down to 20hz just fine even if quiet, that means a 5db or so boost in that region will get a good response albeit not a headrumbling time like a dynamic can do.
I havent heard a electrostatic yet, so jumping in to give it a shot. I prefer Planar bass to dynamics, so electrostat bass might be right up my alley. Think the ESP 950 will be a great complement to my T60RP.
Oct 2, 2018
RC28
14
Nov 28, 2018
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You know why the buzz right Wade. The wire becomes brittle and fatigued and it’s resistance goes down allowing more than necessary current to travel through. That occurred to my Heil Air motion pleats leading to a breakdown in tonal quality. Or one of the components in the generator has lost it’s resistance over time. Just opinion from experience.
Nov 28, 2018
WaydeR
54
Nov 28, 2018
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Good to know, thanks. Although there's no way I'd try to fix that myself. I'm just glad Koss has a lifetime guarantee. Since talking about this drop, I've been using my 950s more lately, they'd kinda been on the back burner for awhile. I'm glad I still have 'em around and didn't sell them yet.
Nov 28, 2018
RC28
14
Nov 28, 2018
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Sorry you sold your OPPO’s. Like you said they are my go to headphones and I’ve kept them in the case when not in use. The ear pads are more compressed then when I first got them but the rest are still perfect and just keep sounding better. RC
Nov 28, 2018
WaydeR
54
Nov 29, 2018
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Interesting, I talked about that on another thread where I rambled about another pair of cans I loved. Was that you I was replying to there? Small world, either way. Yeah. I miss my Oppos PM3s but they have a good home now. The real tragedy is the death of Oppo in audio. I lnow the Chinese side of the business lives on making phones but I had hoped to see more headphones from them. No BS pricing on stellar quality. I own an Oppo Blu-ray/ Universal disc player and love it... even if I don't use it as much anymore. I wish I could locate Frank Zappa Haloween on a hi-res lossless digital file format. I have it on DVD Audio and can only hear it on the Oppo player. I'd love to hear on headphones. I'd buy it! Cash money. Until then my Oppo player is the only way. Anyway, I'll stop shilling Oppo now. I was lucky to have been able to write a review for the PM 3 for Audioholics when they came out. They're definitely missed.
Nov 29, 2018
Barondla
141
Nov 29, 2018
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Why don't you rip the DVD-A disc? It is easy to do using DVD Audio Extractor. I keep backups of all my DVD-A and DualDiscs. I also have an Oppo 105 and love it.
Nov 29, 2018
WaydeR
54
Nov 29, 2018
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I've thought about this... but how would I connect a disc player that reads DVD-A to my PC? Is it even possible to use the Oppo's digital out? I assumed I'd need a disc player in my PC that could read DVD-A. I don't know too much about that. Is there anywhere I could read up on this? I'll try some searches online, but thanks for the idea. I hadn't thought it was really possible without getting more hardware.
Nov 29, 2018
Barondla
141
Nov 29, 2018
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Your computer/dvd drive reads the disc. The problem is most computers don't have the dac to handle 24/192. Doesn't matter here. The digital signal isn't being decoded. We are just extracting and moving it to a hard drive. I use a Dell i5 laptop with built in dvd drive to rip DVD-A to an external hard drive. Then plug that hard drive into the Oppo's front usb input. Instant hi res music. DVD Audio Distractor does require you to find cover art. You may also see different versions on disc. Hi res stereo pcm, surround, Dolby, etc. Pick the version you want to rip. Takes less than 10 min. to rip a disc.
Nov 29, 2018
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